Rediscovering thematic learning
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Rediscovering thematic learning. Storyline and other ‘ open architectures ’ Terry Wrigley Visiting Professor, Leeds Metropolitan University ACTS, Stirling 2012. Frodo develops his leadership skills Sam tests every little creature in every land BUT

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Rediscovering thematic learning

Rediscovering thematic learning

Storyline and other ‘open architectures’

Terry Wrigley

Visiting Professor,

Leeds Metropolitan University

ACTS, Stirling 2012


Rediscovering thematic learning

Frodo develops his leadership skills

Sam tests every little creature in every land

BUT

they don’t have a clue where they’re going.


Rediscovering thematic learning

A world in crisis

‘The world is breaking apart,

and even the sky is cracking.’

(Galeano: Upside Down)


Rediscovering thematic learning

What really matters: new targets to meet?

higher maths grades perhaps?

or caring and creative learners, a future,

a sense of justice,

the welfare of the planet and its people?

What should the curriculum look like

in 21st Century schools ?


Rediscovering thematic learning

Watching the news

We’re told about everything,

but we don’t find out a thing.

(Galeano, quoting journalist Fernandez-Moores)


Rediscovering thematic learning

Mass communications

Never have so many

been held incommunicado

by so few.

(Galeano)


Rediscovering thematic learning

The passive tradition

Teachers talk, children listen (… or maybe they don’t?)

Teachers ask all the questions

There is no real discussion

Memorising, not thinking

Becoming more efficient might mean reinforcing this!

Real improvement involves rethinking learning and redesigning teaching.


Rediscovering thematic learning

Are our schools up to the job?

A deeply authoritarian tradition

Systematically deny voice and agency


Rediscovering thematic learning

The norms of traditional schooling:

alienated forms of learning

like factory work - you are told what to do and write, you are told how long you have to sit there, you hand over your product not to an interested audience but to teacher-as-examiner, who gives you a token payment (mark, grade)


Rediscovering thematic learning

A citizenship challenge:

creating ‘communities of concern’

In place of learning as inert knowledge, fragments of dead facts,

Chomsky says we need to create real communities of concern in our schools:

‘not to be seen merely as an audience but as part of a community of common concern in which one hopes to participate constructively’ (Chomsky)


Rediscovering thematic learning

Authorship:

It can be valuable to work out a plan for the year, but the plan should consist of broad and open possibilities which give room for adjustments and changes, and not least to encourage and accommodate students’ participation and co-responsibility. (Social Studies, Denmark)


Rediscovering thematic learning

More open architectures of learning

Projects

Storyline

Challenges

Structure + openness (voice, agency, initiative)

They give a greater role to learners -

giving voice and agency.

They increase motivation, offering engaged learning to disadvantaged and disaffected learners.


Rediscovering thematic learning

Projects

a) theme suggested by teacher or students - whole class becomes engaged with area of enquiry

b) all discuss emerging issues, problems and ideas

c) group / individual research (choice of sub-theme)

d) present to class, engage them in debate

and often:

e) real outcome - social action, wider audience etc.

e.g. Refugee Project. [based on Samfundsfag]


Rediscovering thematic learning

Storyline

a) teacher presents situation to start a narrative

b) pupils become characters

c) teacher gives prompts for each stage, characters react

(including role play, research, writing etc.)

d) various kinds of dilemmas (technical; ethical etc.)

Example: Rainbow Street


Rediscovering thematic learning

Design challenge

(‘Education by Design’ / Critical Skills)

Learning in response to a ‘challenge’ (a task to be completed, e.g.

a) real or realistic situation

b) students discuss problematic features

c) group / individual research and production

d) presentations


Rediscovering thematic learning

Design challenge

A new S1 class see a video of the Galactic Emperor, who announces a proposal to destroy the earth in order to build a superhighway to a holiday centre at the opposite end of the Milky Way.

The class have two days to provide reasons for saving the earth.

The learning teams use books and ICT and prepare a Powerpoint presentation.


Rediscovering thematic learning

  • Advantages:

  • engage learners through a meaningful theme / situation

  • provide common framework but room for creativity

  • sense of product and audience


Rediscovering thematic learning

  • encourage co-operation, negotiation, planning

  • key skills (language, literacy, maths, ICT,

  • research, visual presentation)

  • but in meaningful context

  • cross-curricular

  • situated learning


Rediscovering thematic learning

  • a ‘community of common concern’

  • combines ethical and emotional with cognitive.

  • encourage learners to think of alternative futures


Rediscovering thematic learning

  • Rethinking learning

  • (from Vygotsky, to activity theory, situated cognition etc.)

  • Learning starts with external activity

  • and is then internalised

  • (interpersonal then intrapersonal)

  • tools

  • language

  • working with others


Rediscovering thematic learning

From real experience

to abstract signs - a spectrum

Real experience

Simulated

Virtual reality

model

virtual model

Narrative

Academic

Arithmetic

Algebra


Rediscovering thematic learning

Microworlds

what if they provide a space

for movement up and down the scale

from concrete to abstract

AND

to play with alternative futures. (off-line)


Rediscovering thematic learning

Flexibility ?

abstract theory is flexible

can use it in different situations


Rediscovering thematic learning

Flexibility ?

abstract theory is flexible

can use it critically in different situations

but microworlds also enable us to

play with alternatives


Rediscovering thematic learning

  • OIL

  • Project:

  • embedded in real life concerns (e.g. a news report)

  • OR could start with a simulation, photo, etc.

  • Cognitive complexity.

  • Problem-driven.

  • Strong emphasis on enquiry-learning.


Rediscovering thematic learning

OIL

Project: embedded in real life concerns

Cognitive complexity. Problem-driven. Enquiry.

  • Storyline:

  • strongly embedded - place, time, people

  • emotional involvement (+ stand back)

  • gradual unfolding of situations, challenges

  • compels decision-making (ethical)


Rediscovering thematic learning

OIL

Project: embedded in real life concerns

Cognitive complexity. Problem-driven. Enquiry.

Storyline: strongly embedded - place, time, people

emotional; unfolding; ethical decisions

  • Design challenge:

  • pulled along by challenge (end task)

  • contains an embedded problem

  • requires contextualised solutions

  • strong teamwork


Rediscovering thematic learning

OIL

Project: embedded in real life concerns

Cognitive complexity. Problem-driven. Enquiry.

Storyline: strongly embedded - place, time, people

emotional; unfolding; ethical decisions

Design challenge: pulled by end task

embedded problem; contextualised solutions; team

Hybridisation:

e.g. Storyline - stand back

OR Project - start with simulation

OR Challenge - in role


Rediscovering thematic learning

OIL

Project: embedded in real life concerns

Cognitive complexity. Problem-driven. Enquiry.

Storyline: strongly embedded - place, time, people

emotional; unfolding; ethical decisions

Design challenge: pulled by end task

embedded problem; contextualised solutions; team

Hybridisation:

e.g. Storyline - stand back

OR Project - start with simulation

OR Challenge - in role

All: can lead to real outcome


Rediscovering thematic learning

In place of passive listening

and alienated learning

voice + agency

engaged

situated

collaborative

future-oriented

coherent

holistic

meaningful

cognitive /skills /affective / ethical

LET’S GO


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